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June 23, 2017

Yes.... I have Secrets.....

I read in a trade magazine about a contractor in Dallas, Texas who is offering a service to his customers of installing permanent, build-in safes. Near the end of the rough framing stage, his crew moves the large, heavy safe into a specially constructed opening, bolt it to the framing then adds drywall, a door, and trim. Homeowners love the added security and peace-of-mind.

This got me thinking about my secrets. They're not huge, heavy safes but rather small little nooks no one but the homeowner knows about. There is the false bottom in a built-in wardrobe, the newel post that contains a bottle of 24-year old scotch, the drawer that holds ^&())$+*67#2 and %&sdfdfy3&. There is even a bookcase that is a little more than just a bookcase..... and the desk with the hiding place for the expensive laptop when the owners go on vacation.

But none of this is new. Carpenters have been building secret passages and hiding spots for millennia--ever since people had things worth protecting!

January 10, 2017

500 year old cabinet....sort of.....

500-year old clothes press My Christmas break project was this simple cabinet. We turned our grown and gone oldest kids bedroom into a laundry/storage/spare room. Since I get up very early every morning I have always dressed in the laundry so as not to disturb my lovely wife's beauty sleep. I stored my clothes on built-in shelves in the old laundry and wanted a similar arrangement. ( I gave up on "dressers" decades ago probably because I lived out of a sea bag for so many years.)

ren carpenter My design requirements were a cabinet fairly narrow and about 45 inches high with a depth around 12 inches. I have this imagine of a renaissance carpenter, perhaps German, that I always admired. There were a series of these imagines of different 16th-century trade and craftsman.

I made mine from common pine as they may have in the 16th-century. I used rectangular head cut nails as they may have except instead of wrought iron, I cheated and use cut masonry nails. For the trim, I really cheated and used my pneumatic nail gun. Hey- they have a rectangular nail head too!

modern cut nail OK, the BIG cheat was with the joinery on the shelves. Historically, they would have used a dado joint for each shelve (a groove cut across the vertical side that the end of the shelf slips into - very strong) on the higher end pieces. On lower end cabinetry the shelves might rest on a cheat attached to the side or simply pinned to the sides with wood dowels (not terribly strong, but adequate).

I used pocket hole screw technology. It's quick, very strong and quick. Pocket holes are used to build most kitchen cabinets in the US today. They are not very eloquent, but if they're hidden.... they're fast!

pocket hole screws The most pleasant surprise about this design is the top. The "framed" top creates a wonderfully secure area to toss keys, wallet, cell phone, change, etc without fear of them being accidentally swept off the top.

So, besides pretending to be a plumber and an electrician and relocating the washer and dryer in a new room, I built this handy little clothes storage unit, .....errrr 16th-centry inspired wooden clothes press.

December 22, 2016

Check for pulse....if you're not crying in your beer after watching this...

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year EVERYONE!

November 12, 2016

HHmmmm.... Persimmion!!

My wife came home from and said, "have a job for you" as she handed a bag to me. She explained one of her co-workers had a cracked permission pestle. This was serious. "Whats he want me to do?" I asked. "He would like you do make him a new one- exactly like this one, it was his grandmother's and he told me all about being knee-high and 'helping' his grandmother make persimmon pudding. He'll pay you," she added. She had me at persimmon. "He would like to know about how much it would cost."

"Well.... I could make it out of maple. It's a nice hardwood, tight grain, well behaved, makes good treenware.... I think this is worth at least one persimmon pie...maybe two!"

After the long sigh, "I'll tell him.......," she said.

November 11, 2016

Bravo Zulu to all Veterans !!!

October 8, 2016

New Website Launched!!

Well, it's launched. It never really will be done. Websites need almost constant maintenance to ensure everything in functioning and content is updated and remains current.

I'm not smart enough to use one of those fancy web templates were you just fill in the blanks and grab and drag image tools. (Anyone remember Front Page?) Nor am I smart enough to actually HIRE someone to build and maintain my website! No..., not that smart at all. Instead, I code. I use a $200 refurbished Lenovo desktop running Linux Ubuntu with Xmonad windows manager. I use Komodo to build web pages, GIMP to play with graphics and Filezilla to upload everything to my VPS server. Why? It's a hobby. And it keeps the sawdust from settling too deeply in the grey matter.... kind'of.

Why Linux and what is it? Linux is an operating system like the ones that run Windows PC computers or Mac computers. The neat thing about Linux is it is a FREE, open-source operating system. You don't "buy" it, you just install it. No one "owns" it, yet thousands of geeks and nerds all over the world maintain and improve it. It is also MUCH less likely to get infected with a computer virus. You can download and install tons of free, open source software for word processing, spreadsheets, graphics, video, etc. Almost every popular Windows or Mac software has a Linux version. Tired of those "automatic" updates on Windows 10? Check out Ubuntu . It's been grandma tested and approved! To look for software, google "alternative software for Linux".

What's next. Troubleshooting and fixing bugs. In fact, If you find something, drop me a line. There might be a reward in it for you!

September 22, 2016

How To Buy Custom Cabinetry

It's time..... time to do something about those old, worn out "my grandmother had cabinets like these" cabinets.

You have several options:

Replace Hardware and Drawers

Additional Cabinets

Replacement Cabinets

  • Out with the old, in with the new! Sometimes there is no other practical choice. If your old cabinets are usable I encourage people to donate them to and organization that may benefit from them. In Bloomington the Habitat Restore does a wonderful job recycling usable home furnishings and raising money for their cause.
  • Replacing kitchen cabinets usually means "kitchen remodel." Since you are ripping out all the cabinets you "might as well move the refrigerator"....and you "never did like where the sink was located". Now we're rerouting plumbing and electrical and "if we move this wall...." But is can lead to a wonderful new kitchen and dinning space that will enhance your lifestyle and add value to your home. Kitchen remodels offer one of the highest returns on investments (ROI) of all home improvement projects, usually around 60-65% or $600-650 increased home value for every $1000 spent. (You can learn more about home improvement cost vs. value at Remodeling 2016 Cost vs. Value Report. Interestingly, minor kitchen remodels have a higher ROI!

  • September 21, 2016

    Custom Built-In Cabinetry

    Hoosier Woodworks' custom built-in cabinetry becomes a permanent addition to your home, increasing your home's value and enhancing your lifestyle.

    The difference between cabinetry and furniture is cabinets are physically attached to the house and stay with the house when the house is sold and furniture leaves the house with the homeowners when they move. So a free standing cabinet, like a linen press or armoire, is technically a piece of furniture.

    So built-in cabinets would include things like bookcases, if they are "built-in-to-the-wall", window seats, mudroom lockers, fireplace mantels and surrounds, inglenooks, etc. basically, any permanently attached piece of furniture that is not a kitchen cabinet. Yes, the line is blurry.....

    So, why the distentionSP between furniture and built-ins? It basically comes down to how you think of your investment dollars. A $2000 custom built-in bookcase will add value to you'll home (usually) whereas a $2000 free standing against the wall bookcase (furniture) will not--it's going with you when you move.

    This isn't a big deal in the overall scheme of things, but it is the first question I ask a customer when they call or email, "do you want this to be a permanent part of your home or will you take ut with you when you move?

    September 14, 2016

    Custom Kitchen Cabinetry

    Today, sadly, the term, cabinets, generally refers to mass-produced, overpriced, particle board boxes with "photo transferred wood grain" purchased at, well, big box stores. Ahh -- a far cry from the days of ol' when cabinets were pieces of fine furniture designed and built to contain priceless treasures.

    "Cabinets should be furniture that your grandchild will fight over who gets it ... not who gets to take it to the dump!" Marc Adams

    I build custom cabinets for kitchens, baths, libraries, family rooms, etc., from solid veneer cabinet-grade plywood, the best available. I do this for several reasons: First- I like the durability and long life this material provides. Two- I like working with it! I HATE working with particle board and MDF (medium density fiberboard) in all of their many varieties. The dust is very irritating to the respiratory system and impossible to fully control. I don't like the fact the least little bit of water can TOTALLY destroy cabinets made from this material. It's only advantage is it's cheapness. You get what you pay for..... Three- I like the value. For a few more dollars, quality plywood offers the most efficient use of our natural resources.

    Strong, durable, easy to work, and environmentally sound- all excellent reasons to ask for quality wood products!

    Learn more about How To Buy Custom Kitchen Cabinetry

    Saturday, September 4, 2015

    Unexpected surprise...

    Recently while finishing preparing a 1902 B.N, Morris wood canvas canoe for new canvas I needed to replace the second rib on the starboard stern at the stem. When I removed the plank I found something unexpected....

    Apparently B.N. Morris took a different tack from Old Town and other builders in the stems. Instead of bringing the inwales continuously from stem to stem, Morris used a board! The cant ribs you see in the above photo are let in (inset) into the board. The board is scarfed into the inwale in the below photo.

    This is just one of several discoveries I made while restoring this boat!


    Boy, did I get an education….

    I had to take my high school son to Wabash College (Crawfordsville, IN) to take scholarship exams. After dropping him off, I killed some time at the library and after lunch, explored the downtown shops. I wandered into a furniture store…the first furniture store I had set foot into in over fifteen years (after I discovered a spot on a sofa where the manufacture had sanded through the veneer-exposing the particle board substrate- then stained the entire thing anyway, all for only $999!) I’ve had a very grim view of furniture in the US. Many people just accept what’s in the furniture store or –gulp- buy their furniture in a box …”some assembly required.” Some people track down family heirlooms that where well made to begin with and have stood the test of time.

    It was a human-owned store, not a national chain store. I was actually impressed with some of the lines. The salesman, probably the owner, said most of their merchandise was, in fact, made in the US, especially the upholstered furniture, most of it from North Caroline. He said some of the upholstery “packages” was made in Asia, shipped to NC, installed on the frame and shipped to the store.

    This was reassuring. As a furniture maker myself (hence my 15 years hiatus form furniture stores) I’m glad to see some furniture manufacturing returning to the US. A mass exodus has been taking place in the US probably since the ‘70s as furniture companies started to “outsource” production overseas. Much of this was economic; lower labor rates, fewer restrictions, less regulations but labor had a lot to do with it too. No-labor unions did not drive jobs overseas. We did, or rather the lack of labor did. There simply were not enough skilled workers to fill the job vacancies. Many experts trace this back to the decline of shop and industrial arts classes in the junior high and high schools. I also believe many kids of my generation actually listened to our parents- “go to college, get a degree, I don’t want you working in the factory or punching a time clock….” So we became lawyers (a LOT became lawyers!), a few doctors, many managers, executives, account representatives but few became brick layers, carpenters, electricians, mechanics, woodworkers or…plumbers.

    I wandered around some more, checking out the “space age foam” mattresses, kitchen tables and chairs. I spied some activity in the back. Two guys with tools in hand where hovering over some wooden parts and a rather beat up cardboard box. They politely said, “hi” and I inquired as to what they where doing, “a repair,” I asked? “Oh no,” they replied, “we’re putting these chairs together, we just got a big shipment in.”

    So there you go-furniture in a box, some assembly required. They said about ten years ago, manufactures started shipping furniture unassembled. The stores had to absorb this cost or had to pass it on to the customer.

    And I guess it saves on overseas shipping.

    Is there anywhere to buy furniture without assembly, furniture well built enough your children’s children will call heirloom?

    Thanks, Roger

    New Online Store Launched!

    Finally, after what seems likes years of starting and stopping, I have an online store! I have had an Etsy store for a few years now, but I wanted my own. You can purchase some of my staple products; flag cases, soap rest, writing pens, rolling pins, cutting boards, etc. Click the link to explore!

    Getting this store up and running has been a long process. I spent a couple years as webmaster for the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and installed an XCART store. It works fine, in a canned sort of way. I wanted to avoid the expense and complexity of a prepackaged product. I had built a test store using PayPal years ago but was disappointed with the buy button. I played with Google Buy Now buttons but didn't think Google would be as widely accepted as PayPal. I discovered PayPal had developed an actual "shopping cart" where you can add multiple items. This was the functionality I was looking for!

    And a HUGE advantage of using PayPal is their PCI DSS compliance. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards are regulations set forth by the big credit card companies, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, etc., that govern how credit cards, debit cards, electronic checks, etc., are processed. Maybe some of you remember the days when your credit card receipt had your card number and expiration date printed right on the receipt. PCI DSS are the people who came up with the CSV security number on the back of your card. A couple years ago they came down hard on retailers who stored customer's personal data (name, address, card number, expiration date, CSV number!) on minimally secure servers. Remember the $4.5 BILLION T.J. Max security fiasco?

    Now, instead of going to all the expense and trouble of having a Fort Knox-like server..... I let PayPal do it! There the computer, internet, programming experts....I'm a woodworker. When shop in my store and click the Add to Cart button, you'll notice a little lag time before another window opens. The window opens on PayPal's servers, not mine, hence the delay. You don't need a PayPal account to buy something. You can use your credit/debit card just like any other store. The entire transaction occurs on PayPal for maximum security and convenience. All I see is an email from PayPal with name and address and the items ordered and any special instructions. If there is a problem with the order like a return or something, it's easy to go into PayPal make the change. I am most impressed with them! Check out my new store at

    A Modern Sweep

    "Here you go," Dick said handing me the ancient stair part. "I need this to be left-hand." I've always enjoyed working for Dick, a contractor who specializes in custom homes in the upper price range. He always gives me unique and interesting jobs -- jobs other trim carpenters/woodworkers are too smart to take.

    "Here you go," Dick said handing me the ancient stair part. "I need this to be left-hand." I've always enjoyed working for Dick, a contractor who specializes in custom homes in the upper price range. He always gives me unique and interesting jobs -- jobs other trim carpenters/woodworkers are too smart to take.

    So I had a 100-year-old right-hand stair sweep, hand rail and newel post salvaged from some long forgotten mansion. The homeowners had been collecting miscellaneous salvaged house parts for more than five years. It was my job to make them fit into the house Dick was building.

    At first glance, it seemed to be a pretty straight forward project. Calculate the radius of the sweep in the plan view from the hand rail to the newel cap, apply the pitch of the hand rail, cut everything out of a laminated blank and, presto, a perfect fit! Mmmmm... Better make a mock up.

    I've learned two things doing projects like this: Full-size drawings save time, aggravation and mistakes; mock-ups save material.

    So I made the full-sized drawing from my site measurements. I glued up some scrap plywood for the blank, cut out the plank and rough-shaped the new sweep. I could not wait for tomorrow to test-fit the new sweep. "Dick will be so impressed I got this done so fast!" I thought.

    Tomorrow came, and I did the test fit. Not only did the new sweep not fit, it wasn't even close! "Silly me, I forgot to subtract that one measurement from that another. This will be easy to fix," I said to myself.

    I was tempted to just go ahead and make the final piece, but decided another prototype would be in order. The second one was much better than the first, but not ... quite ... right. "Now what?"

    The more I looked at the original sweep, the more it did not look like a modern radius sweep. I needed help.

    A search through the public library database was not much help, so I started to browse the stacks of books. Finally, I came across "Modern Carpentry Techniques." Inside I found a chapter on stairs with nice diagrams and black-and-white photos of nearly the exact stair I was working on!

    Now the only problem was the pages, and pages, of algebra and trigonometry formulas explaining how to build such a beautiful stair! "Well, maybe I can figure this out ... at least there are pictures," I said to myself on the way the checkout.

    The math had me stumped after the second page. However the photos and diagrams were of great help. I soon realized that my sweep was not based on a radius, a part of a cylinder, but rather an ellipse, which has a constantly changing radius! That is why mine looked so different from modern sweeps.


    Armed with this new-found concept, I started to redraw the earlier plan view. I knew the position of the hand rail and where the newel post had to be positioned. I decided to assembly a mock-up of the stair upon the drawing to get a true representation of the pitch of the hand rail. I made a block of wood to represent the outside dimensions of the handrail. I built a plywood ramp and positioned the hand rail block at the exact position in relation to the center of the newel post. The newel post had a cap that was attached to the sweep and the newel post. A finial was tacked to the cap to hide the fasteners and finish the post.

    Mouse-over graphics for description.
    Start of the layout    Plan view of the layout
    I used a piece of scrap wood to represent the end of the sweep and cut a piece of plywood to represent the bird's mouth to be cut into the cap. With these positions defined, I glued eighth-inch square balsa wood at each of the four corners of the blocks. This defined the horizontal and vertical shape of the needed sweep.

    The walnut blank rough shaped. Now the challenge was to transfer the shape as defined by the balsa wood "corners" to the piece of walnut from which the new sweep would be carved. This was done with paper tracings and direct measurements. It was at this point that I realized my 30-year subscription to Wooden Boat magazine was starting to payoff!

    With the walnut scribed with plan and elevation lines, it was a simple matter to cut it out on the bandsaw. I did not cut out the bottom, wanting it for support as I carved to the final shape.

    Notice the 1       The bottom is defined and carved away.

    Carving was a great relief after the trials of the layout. I did have to invest in two new tools, a compound radius plane and a spoon plane (oh darn!). I also made scrapers to match the profiles of the different sections of the hand rail. This work went surprisingly quick and was most enjoyable.

    Finished shape       A new newel cap was turned and bird's month cut.

    The last stage was to cut the bottom off the sweep, which was a bit of a challenge since you need cut in two planes at once, so I cut wide then worked down to the line with hand tools. A final sanding, cutting the point for the bird's mouth, and it was done.

    The finished left-hand sweep and newel cap. Installation went smoothly; everything fit as planned. Sometimes, I just get lucky!

    Oh yes, that book "Modern Carpentry Techniques" -- it was first published in 1902!

    POSTSCRIPT- A very good customer gave me several years of Fine Homebuilding magazine from the '70s and early '80s. In one issue, Jan. 1980 I think, on the back page was a story about a craftsman in Illinois, who at age 80, was still working a few days a week in a shop he first worked at when he was twenty....still building stairs with the traditional sweeps